Justin Starr: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it's the Smart Choice!

by Stasia Lopez / Oct 08, 2020 /
Stasia Lopez's picture

Justin Starr started at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in 2002 as a high school dual enrollment student. He took the bus from his home in Sewickley to Allegheny Campus, and earned his Associate of Science in General Studies. Later, Justin went on to get his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science from the University of Virginia, and his Master of Science and Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering from the University of Florida. Justin worked for QinetiQ North America's Technology Solutions Group on attachments for bomb-disposal robots and DARPA programs on Anti-Submarine Warfare. He was also CTO of RedZone Robotics, Inc., a Pittsburgh manufacturer of sewer inspection robots, until they sold the business in 2018. Now Justin is an Assistant Professor of Mechatronics at the West Hills Center!

Justin Starr: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it's the Smart Choice!

How did you choose your major? What motivated you to choose that field/profession? 
I had no idea! General Studies was as specific as I could be way back then. Later I got my A.S. in Business Management because an understanding of business can help you in any profession.

What did you enjoy about attending CCAC? Any memorable moment to share? 
I was such a nerd–I loved taking books from the library discards! I also remember thinking that Mr. Samuels made sociology so much more interesting than many of my high school classes. Now, I love teaching intro classes for the same reason: to try to get people excited about something I have a passion for.

How involved were you at CCAC? Did you study abroad? Did you have internships or Co-Ops? Clinicals and/or practicums? Were you a part of any clubs, sports, or extracurriculars? 
Phi Theta Kappa, but that's about it. 

Did any of these experiences lead you into realizing your passions for work and career? 
I knew I wanted to teach! It is so exciting to return to my alma mater in a new capacity. It is a little weird to see some of the same professors (people love working here!), but it is fantastic.

What skills did you gain that you could take into a workplace? 
Taking CCAC classes while I was still in high school was the best thing I could have done to get ready for a four-year institution. They made me ready for the rigor and workload of college, and showed me that I had so much to learn–tough for a know-it-all kid to understand. I also learned to work with a variety of students–different ages and backgrounds–that I never would have encountered otherwise. I am a much better team player as a result of my CCAC experience.

What are you hoping to do next? What would you like to do professionally? 
Right now, I love teaching! But, I am always thinking about startups and new businesses. I love the idea of applying science to management, and have a few ideas for new technologies. It would be great to work on some of them with a few students!

Justin Starr: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it's the Smart Choice!

How do you manage stress (most especially during these uncertain times)? 
I am a retrotechnology nerd. When I have spare time, I enjoy playing video games from the 80s and 90s, and restoring ancient computers and electronic devices. 

What do you want prospective college students to know—what advice do you have for them? 
Your professors are one of the most valuable resources that you have! Take advantage of them–talk to them, ask them questions, get to know them! They know a lot about class material, but a lot about life, too!

Who inspires you and why? Do you have any mentors or people of influence in your life? 
I am always motivated by my parents who did so much to give me opportunities, and by my wife who puts up with my frustrations each and every day. I try to always bring generosity and patience to every day.

Anything else you’d like for us to know? 
You guys are so great at career services! Please continue helping all of our students get jobs!

Justin Starr: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... it's the Smart Choice!

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Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Director of Career Services at the Community College of Allegheny County. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University in 2013 and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel, college to career topics and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando, precious daughter, Maya, and playful kitty-cat Zorro.